The Nerf Bat

One of my favorite terms applied in gaming nowadays is “nerfing,” the concept where the effectiveness of a character, attack, or power is reduced by the power of the almighty patch. It’s so named because the effectiveness post-patch is akin to Nerf toys, which are soft and painless. Of course, whether or not something is a nerf depends on whether or not you’re on the receiving end of the nerfing. In a player-vs-player context, it can be contentious indeed. The fine balancing act of a player versus player type of game, like a fighter, is a battle that must never be taken lightly.

Things are different in co-operative play, though. In co-op, the goal is to make all of the characters appealing in some way. You don’t want a character that’s ignored because they are comparatively useless compared to the rest of the cast. On the flipside, you certainly don’t want one character that is extremely awesome compared to a merely good cast, otherwise it sucks all of the variety out of the game.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair got a patch today that adjusted the balance on several characters. Most of the characters got an improvement or were left alone (Hello, poor Shanoa, who didn’t get a thing). There was one character that was definitely pummeled with an N-Force mace, and that one was Charlotte. Heal, a spell that was Charlotte’s defining trait, got a few tweaks. Namely, it costs about as much mana as it restores in health, making the Astral Ring / Cursed Ring combination utterly worthless. The invincibility frames were also taken away, so Charlotte can no longer bypass flame pillars. With these two tweaks, Charlotte’s ridiculously overpowered healing ability is gone, leaving her with no unique skillset.

It’s a bit sad considering all of the other characters, save for Shanoa, were given some kind of upgrade. In a multiplayer co-op game, where the object is to have fun and not piss on each other, having characters with special healing or buffing powers are rare to find and difficult to master. With Charlotte’s heal effectively nerfed, what character does that in HoD? None of them, sadly. You’re either an offensive fighter (Alucard, Soma, Julius, Jonathan, etc) or an offensive mage (Shanoa, Yoko, new Charlotte, Maria, etc). If you want to be a supporter or healer, you’re plain out of luck. That’s why this particular nerf was egregious – it simultaneously rendered a character less useful and unique. Those are the kinds of nerfs I don’t like.

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